This guy, Norman Levine, is driving me nuts. I’m reading his book Canada Made Me, published in the mid-1950s. Levine, like Richler, was an Eastern Canadian Jew with literary aspirations who escaped early to London. Levine returned in the mid-50’s for a brief cross-country tour which he wrote about, which became this book. Admittedly, Canada in the 1950’s was a bleak provincial colonial backwater–and that’s what Levine brings out.
I love it and hate it. It’s so well written, so full of Holden Caufieldesque bleakness. So what I aspire to, yet loathe. The extent to which this brings forth my demons cannot be understated. If nothing else, his mastery of tight prose should inspire anyone. His choice to paint (then) Canada in such a jaundiced hue should be celebrated as a symbol of bravery and honesty. But it sure makes us feel bad in 2001, although it shouldn’t. Required reading, if you ask me.
A brief excerpt (describing a Sunday at a northern Ontario mining outpost):
Sunday was just another day.Those who didn’t work on the day shift had chicken for lunch.There was little talk. No hypocrisy. And there was no trust. Everyone locked his door.